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University of Toronto St. George
Christopher Watts

ANT200 Lecture Notes 7 Mesopotamia and Egypt Earliest signs of complexity and statehood in Mesopotamia (Southern Iraq): • Writing • Urbanization • Agriculture Environmental context • Low rainfall: water comes mainly from Tigris and Euphrates • Dramatic spring floods: silt (chokes canals) • Plain is flat & poorly drained: salinization (salt build-up) Tigris and Euphrates River Systems • Flow from Eastern Turkey through Syria, Iraq, and empty into the Persian Gulf • Not conducive to agriculture in themselves; they are not entrenched into the landscape, and tend to meander over time (shifted) - Silt deposited as rivers lose velocity and empty out into the Persian Gulf; the Persian Gulf are therefore a lot farther south than it was 5000 years ago • Most fertile soil found on alluvial floodplains. Mesopotamian cities were concentrated in these areas - Problem: most of Southern Iraq is desert, and water tends to dissipate quickly. Complex irrigation systems were built, but in this hot, dry environment, the water evaporated and left behind salt, which accumulated in the soil (salinization) Types of plant domesticates: • Wheat • Barley • Lentils • Peas Animal domesticates: • Sheep • Goats • Cattle The use and consumption of these domesticates have a lengthy history dating back to the Neolithic era, but they became absolutely necessities/staples in Mesopotamia • First signs of settlement in 5500 BC – 4500 BC (The Formative Period)  Ubaid culture Ubaid Culture • “Mother” culture for Southern Iraq • Erdu, Ur, Uruk have Ubaid cultural remains • Farming settlements of 2-10 ha; 2 tier settlement hierarchy (villages, towns) by 4000 BC • Rectangular, mud brick homes; growth around temples - No separation of religion and state; temples served both religious and political functions • Extensive irrigation, development of potter’s wheel • Rapid growth by ca. 4500 BC; world’s first cities Early City-States period (4500-3100BC) • E.g. Uruk, Eridu, Ur • Population growth – 50,000+ people by 3100 BC • 9 km wall, 250 ha. settlement by 3100 BC • Tightly-packed houses, alleyways, courtyards, workshops • Focal points – ziggurat complexes, temples • Class-based hierarchy • Craft specialization (districts in Ea
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